Ars Electronica
Ars Electronica 1997
Festival-Program 1997
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Festival 1979-2007


Globe Theatre. A Robotic Pageant
Act, Scene 2: Machine Nostalgia

Step by step we have mapped our world empirically by instrument and by the movement of our physical selves across, above and within it. We live now in a world where technology allows each individual's exact location to be transparent. Where we are is suddenly everybody's business. The world is now indeed a stage, an amphitheater, a world of worlds, a theater in the round, a pluralistic armature lending itself simultaneously to both the portrayal and enactment of theatrical events.

It would seem then that our only chance to enjoy anonymity and solitude is to keep on the move, to travel too quickly to be registered by instruments of our own making. The shortest distance between two points may now be a straight line traveled at extreme speed. Thus, a return to nomadic life may provide our only opportunity to be heard and not seen.

Like other natural creatures in the world, we move in clusters and carry on our activities in an organized urban frenzy. Each of us has our own particular agenda and, as the robots do, play our role as archivist, librarian, detective, provider, spy and/or archaeologist.

In Globe Theater, a panoply of robots appear and disappear, moving along a map of their own making while writing down the world. The robots as creatures create their own diagrammatic scripting, coding and mapping. Scurrying along, they carry nostalgia high in their ranks like a banner, conjuring up not only territory as it was and is, but anticipating new territory: the mysterious part of the road about to be underfoot but yet unknown, which could be the stuff of fire, water, air or earth.

By the gatherings of information and imagery and interpretations of their findings, the locale in which these robotic actors spring up becomes a series of stage-sets through which they move as a form of projection. The clusters they form in the physical world exhibit some of our best qualities: curiosity and a passion for study, interpretation and display of human history. Like a false door in an Ancient Egyptian tomb, the frenzy of these idiosyncratic characters and their dramatic adventures masks and protects their subtext: a political devotion to keeping imagination alive.

These intrepid characters explore and remap the world ideologically again, retaining all its diversity, and even deepening it. They are not limited to either a medieval flat, circular disc or a round sphere. To these curiosity machines, the world is chameleon-like, and can change shape, color and scope at will.

The stories emerging from the efforts of these robotic creatures are expressed in their own form of theatrical play, emulating medieval pageantry and the genres of detective and mystery stories, science fiction, fables, scholarly and scientific reporting and journalism. As artists, we are now inventors, archaeologists, and detectives. Like the robots, our studies tend to bridge things, to discard arbitrary borders between things isolated and juxtaposed. Robots and computers liberate us from the prospect of being overwhelmed by all the information in the world. It is their turn now to handle the storage and organization of as well as the access to information, leaving us, hopefully, free for the breaking of new artistic and philosophical ground.

The Ship's Deputy Detective: The Intrepid Detective of The Good Ship Beagle
She: A recasting of H. Rider Haggard's Fictive Character
Visconde de Santarem [17911856]: map historian, inventor of the word "cartographie"
Libra: Keeper of the Peace, Conductor of Jurisprudence
Kiru: Librarian of Juxtapositions In All Their Degrees
Callimachus: Poet, Librarian, the Alexandrian Library, 260 BC
Four projector towers: north, south, east and west
CALLIMACHUS: A magic carpet flies and is so incredible that it is in fact difficult to believe.

KIRU: Camouflage Town has an exact duplicate. During periods when the tribe feels invincible, Camouflage Town serves as a decoy battlefield; it is there they lure greedy enemies to war with rumors of treasures and tools.
Because of my ability to withstand the stress of contradictions I am responsible for the recording of archaic extremes. Relentlessly, I solicit contributions from everyone I meet. hot/cold, joy/grief, benign/lethal, up/down, inside/outside. Our Tribe's reverence for words affects every aspect of our culture. Indeed, troubled by the fact that words can be false, our judicial procedures are conducted entirely in mime. This includes the reenactment of crimes for judge and jury. Use of the spoken word for conducting jurisprudence is unthinkable.

LIBRA: Bi-polarity told the story of imagination for centuries; there was no way for human beings to know their bearings unless they considered them in relationship to something else.

KIRU: There are also many written laws about the word as spoken: one such law, roughly translated, says that "trouble begins when a quality is applied to the name of a color." It must be ascertained whether the characteristic is a true qualifier of the color, or a separate quality deserving of its own name as a color." In rulings on these distinctions, we are fierce.

SHE: Everyone cheered like mad when women's veils became old hat. Emancipated, we all went home carrying the burden of fashion.